Recently, a writer approached me looking for a job opportunity. He told me he had writing samples and a CV. I had a look. They were fine, workable, and an accurate depiction of who he was. Fine. I then asked whether he had a professional website, a Youtube channel or a podcast. You know, to get to know his brand. He told me:
Writers don't need websites, what? Just a script is fine, right? - Misguided friend’s reply.
Fine is not good enough. The world has changed. The way we're communicating has changed. And the way we write, create content and brand ourselves has changed.
Newsflash. The winners of this game will seize the careers and jobs they attract. The losers will recede into the background. Gone.
Case in point: Not two days before, a producer friend of mine recommended me for a short documentary about science-fiction. I was intrigued. Why? I had not expressed to him specifically that I was a science-fiction expert. I don't "brand myself" as such. In fact, the only things that indicated my interests were my posts on social media.
And there, you see, is the point.
We are what we put out into the world. We are what we put time into. And perhaps, more importantly:
We become the thing we focus on
Because I wrote science-fiction, talked about it and created content for that genre, I was eventually considered a "subject matter expert". And now I am. Now am I? Well, I wouldn't class myself as a professor in futurism. But science-fiction is a passion of mine, and I do have experiences. Those experiences, big or small, are valuable to the people that want them.
Your Experiences are Valuable.
This is your creative brand. It's about framing your work and personality around your ideal self—genre writer, a business with an outstanding product, a director in demand—and putting that into the world for audiences to come to you.
So here are 3 things that you can do right now to start crafting the future of your Creative Brand. It will take time. But it's not that difficult once you get started.
1. Own a platform
My friend didn't have a platform: a place to express his personality, talk about his work and show insights into his skills. A huge no-no. If you don't have a platform, you have nothing. No way to connect with people, no way for potential customers/clients/employers to find you, and no way to position yourself as valuable. Google is your business card.
If audiences can't find you, you're invisible. Sorry. You've lost.
So what can you do?
- Start a website or blog about your business, life and work. But remember, offer value now and again.
- Make sure you're on all the social media platforms that are standard with your industry. Play the game, don’t be afraid of it. It's free! You can have personal accounts, but don't be afraid to show a different side to you. Your triumphs, failures, day-to-day joys, and even your heartbreaks. Your audience wants to relate to you. Don't be afraid to open up.
- Create video content online via YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, whatever makes sense for you.
- Start a podcast and interview people you want to learn from. Even better, showcase them.
- Create an email list with people that may love what to you do.
- Promote your work in events, exhibitions, and guest post on other people’s blogs.
- Brand yourself as a speaker (But hey, know what you're talking about, please.)
- Create content. More. More.
A platform is paramount if you want to build your brand as one that isn't just about YOU YOU YOU. But about other people, their needs, and how your skills can provide a solution. Along the way, you'll start to develop a network of similar minded people that you can tap upon, engage with, and even contribute to make their lives more productive, too.
But people have to find you first. Keep typing.
2. Give away content for free
The vast majority of entrepreneurs, business owners, writers, and filmmakers are too picky about their content. They are too afraid that other people will steal their ideas. It’s all rooted in a deep sense of insecurity, of worrying that someone else will “get ahead” of you. But an idea locked and squandered away in your mind holds ZERO value. Ideas can't be paid for—only the physical form of that idea is tangible. It's basic copyright law, folks. So give your content away for free. Why?
Because when you shift from what you can get, to what you can give, your true audience finds you.
Having a "following" can change your life. You may also be aware of the “1000 fans” or “10,000 fans” theory—that all you need is one thousand passionate followers of your work to make a living out of it. In today’s hyper-connected age this is no longer a theory—it’s a strategy for success.
For writers, having a thousand people order your book is a big deal. It means you have sales even before you release your work. For a start-up or business, if a thousand people buy your launch product because they like your previous content, that’s even better. Not only are you social proof, but people actually want to give you money for the value you offer.
A few years ago, a Law Firm in Los Angeles decided to start a newsletter to attract new clients. But it wasn’t focused on law. It was all about golf. Why? Because they realised most of their clients enjoyed golf, discussed golf and had an emotional attachment to the sport. So packed with the latest golf news and tips, the law firm created value for the people they were targeting. The content was talked about and shared via email. This was enough to generate many new (lucrative) leads and clients.
No longer do you have to rely on traditions of the past. Liberate yourself. You can build an empire from your bedroom. And when you give content away, not only are you framing yourself as a subject-matter expert, but you're positioning yourself a problem-solver. After all, most, if not all, web searches are centred on solving problems.
Jeff Goins, a bestselling blogger and writer, started by creating 'The Writers' Manifesto', a thirty-page ebook that he made in a day on Keynote. It solved the problem of writers not knowing how to start their careers online. So, he gave it away for free, and eventually, people responded to it, shared it, and talked to him about it. This springboarded his career, developed a fan base, and eventually, those same people bought his books. He now has thousands of fans and potential buyers, establishing him as a writer with a clear brand. This wasn’t possible a few years ago. It is now. Accept it.
So be that person that people source out. It’s not “selling out” - it’s connecting with people to help them and yourself.
When my friend needed an interviewee, he recommended me because I create content for that genre, and I love talking about it. I didn’t do it purposefully; I just enjoy creating sci-fi works. For him, however, I could solve his problem. This convergence separated my brand from other writers and made him pick up the phone.
If people can find you, and if you can solve their issues through free content, you're already far ahead of your competitors.
You are winning the game.
And guess what—now and again you can even ask your audience to buy your book, product, film or t-shirt. They will, because not only are they attached to your unique voice, but you've helped them with their problems.
When in doubt—give.
3. Be your authentic self because you are more valuable than you realise
You don't have to be like other business owners, writers, actors, marketers, whatever. A writer doesn't always need a website, and an actor doesn't always need an email list. You can do whatever you want to brand yourself and reach out to the people that matter. Just be one thing.
Today's audiences are incredibly discerning. They know a fake from the real deal. They also know someone who is extroverted, from someone who is trying too hard. So don't.
Be you. If you're fun and crazy and quirky - be that. If you're quiet and reserved and thoughtful—be that. If you're a wannabe serial killer thinking about disemboweling your first victim—don't be that. That's wrong. Other than murder, however, you're home free.
People want to feel connected to someone who is "real". There is already a Seth Godin, Jackie Chan, Ryan Coogler, and Anna Akana out there. It's them.
But you are uniquely valuable, an untapped well of potential. Your voice needs to join the conversation. It deserves to. Your experiences, your opinions, your one-of-a-kind cultural perspective.
And at the end of the day, you deserve to make a living from whatever you want to do with your life.
So instead of hiding and waiting for opportunities to come your way, be the solution. Drive your own ship. When that happens, people not only know your brand and like what you do, but offer you opportunities to be apart of it.
Ultimately, creating your Creative Brand is about being confident about what you do, what you offer, and how you do it. Of course, you must know your craft—whatever that is—and it does take a lot of time, effort and a plan. But you have a strategy to build your platform and reach an audience that wants to hear you, all without sacrificing who you are.